5 Borussia Dortmund Youngsters Sure to Step Up in 2014
Jurgen Klopp's side is responsible for developing many of the Bundesliga's stars, like Mario Goetze, Marco Reus and Nuri Sahin, from a young age and for nurturing and promoting talents like Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Sven Bender into full-fledged Germany internationals.
Although BVB have an increasing number of established senior players, the propensity for their stars to be injured or fatigued leaves room for some of the promising youngsters in their ranks to find their way into senior-level football. And some burgeoning talents appear well on their way to making a breakthrough.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for a look at five of BVB's top talents to watch in 2014, sorted alphabetically by surname.
Watching Jeremy Dudziak play, one almost inevitably thinks of David Alaba. Like Alaba, Dudziak is a left-footed player with sub-Saharan African roots, naturally gifted with great acceleration, agility and soft technique. Like the Bayern Munich man, the BVB youngster is a complete footballer, comfortable playing at full-back, in central midfield and as a winger.
Although Alaba was blooded as a 17-year-old under Louis van Gaal, Dudziak is 18 and has yet to even make the BVB bench. As a prospect, the BVB man is not quite on the level of Alaba. But still, having talent not up to par with arguably the world's best left-back should not be discouraging to Dudziak, who looks set to make a big step in his career in 2014.
Dortmund have had their squad decimated by injuries, and the versatility that Dudziak offers means that if there is a role to be filled, chances are good that he will be able to fill it.
A late-August birthday, the Relative Age Effect has seen him go under the radar until now, and muscular injuries kept him out of the BVB II squad for much of the fall campaign. But should he stay fit, Dudziak has all the potential to have a big breakthrough at some point in 2014.
Two seasons ago, Erik Durm was a striker playing with the Mainz reserves in the Regionalliga West. Last season, he moved to Dortmund and was used on the left wing but only scored two goals and gave one assist in 28 appearances in the 3. Liga.
It appeared that Durm was not cut out for playing as an attacker at a high level. But the player had some very useful attributes: great pace, a sturdy, striker's physique and phenomenal endurance. So when Jurgen Klopp needed a left-back to replace the injured Marcel Schmelzer, he tried Durm in that position. And the 21-year-old fared quite well, considering his inexperience in the role.
Physically speaking, Klopp described Durm, via Bundesligafanatic's Archie Rhind-Tutt, as "the fittest player [BVB] have," and he showed that especially in a heroic display against Marseille.
Although Marcel Schmelzer is Germany and Dortmund's starting left-back, the 26-year-old is renowned more for his work rate than his technique and strength.
Durm has better physical qualities, and his experience in attack makes him a better option going forward. He only is missing the positional instincts and tackling abilities that defenders need to succeed, but both can come with experience. Still 21, Durm could yet become a very reliable defender.
Many heads turned when Dortmund sold Leonardo Bittencourt to Hannover last summer, electing to offload the hugely talented winger they'd spent €5 million to sign while retaining less-celebrated talent Jonas Hofmann.
The 21-year-old Hofmann impressed during Dortmund's summer preseason training camp and had a flying start to the Bundesliga campaign, scoring once and assisting two goals in his first two games. He's rarely played since, however, despite being arguably the best crosser in the Dortmund team.
Hofmann may never be a big star, but he surely will have more chances this spring—especially with Jakub Blaszczykowski injured for the rest of the season, Milos Jojic still adapting to life in Germany and the big step he's taken in leaving Serbia for the Bundesliga.
These next few months will be critical for Hofmann; he currently has an edge over Jojic, but that can change. The Germany under-21 international will have to use his chances, but as we've seen earlier this season, he has the quality to be a valuable role player.
Following a season-ending knee injury to Jakub Blaszczykowski, Dortmund acted quickly to sign Milos Jojic from Partizan Belgrade. The 21-year-old was previously hardly known outside his native Serbia but looks to be a diamond in the rough of the SuperLiga.
Capable of playing in central midfield, attacking midfield and on the left wing, Jojic is a versatile player with a soft touch, great dribbling ability and a keen playmaker's eye. His ability to operate in tight areas is somewhat reminiscent of Ilkay Gundogan, although the player still has a long way to go before he can be compared to any star of world football.
Dortmund's scouts have had great success in recent years, picking out stars like Shinji Kagawa and Robert Lewandowski on the cheap. However, not every signing has lived up to his potential. With the player experiencing a big jump in the level of competition he faces, it may not be until the fall that we know whether Jojic is up for the task.
Marian Sarr's 2013 ended on a particularly bitter note. In Dortmund's last game of the calendar year the young centre-back slipped and was dispossessed deep in his own half—a rookie mistake that led to a goal for Hertha BSC. The youngster was substituted at half-time of the match, which BVB eventually lost.
That was a learning experience for Sarr, who because of Dortmund's injury crisis in defense was perhaps thrown into first-team competition too early. The Essen native only turned 19 at the end of January and is one of Germany's brightest talents at centre-back: Like Mats Hummels, he can read the game well and is very comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Sarr will need to prove himself to Klopp once again, and that may only come at the under-19 European Championship this summer. But especially with Dortmund's centre-backs so injury-prone, he is sure to eventually have his chance.